By Dana Zillgitt, Regular ContributorNovember 18, 2015
image via dailyreadlist.com
I’ve never had to worry about finding girls who looked like me in the media. Do I wish more short women who weren’t gazelles with giraffe, long legs won America’s Next Model? Obviously. But, for the most part, I’m plastered all over American media. I’m blonde, Caucasian, and relatively slim. I always knew I’d grow out of my gangly limbs and into my large feet, because there were examples everywhere of girls and young women with my skin colour, my complexion, hell, even my dry skin and too thick to handle hair. I never had to worry if my Mac foundation was in stock or not, because pale people have always been-and probably always will be-in.
Anyway, onto my point. It’s probably surprising to some that I was excited to see an African American plus size woman finally get a love scene with a good looking dude on the smash series Empire. My first thought? Freaking finally. I don’t like looking at clones, even if they kind of look like me in some sense or look like the kind of woman I wish I could be.
I won’t pretend to know the joy of seeing someone on television or in the media that mildly resembles you for the first time after you’ve hit puberty, because simply put, I do not know that feeling. But I can only assume, from reactions I’ve seen or read about, that the feeling is similar to one of relief. It’s a beautiful thing to see more than one aesthetic represented on a television show. Because if we keep pressing the message “Every body is beautiful” but only promote one kind or elevate one ideal, isn’t that a little hypocritical?
Though I would love to say seeing a diverse cast getting all the love is the norm, I’m ashamed to admit it’s not.
It’s not a surprise or an outcry when somebody who doesn’t look like the norm appears on our screens in all their glory and all their sadness. The sadder thing is, if there’s somebody who’s a little bit bigger or a little bit darker that appears in the media who’s completely in control of themselves and their respective sexuality, we more than freak out a little bit. We question why now, why this person? Why do they not hate themselves like it’s been indoctrinated into our skulls? Why are they getting in the way of the perceived norm?
They’re daring, willing to take more than several rejections, and we need more of them.
I am so glad there are women like Gabourey Sidibe that respond to the haters with statements like “I, a plus sized, dark-skinned woman, had a love scene on primetime television. I had the most fun ever filming that scene even though I was nervous. But I felt sexy and beautiful and I felt like I was doing a good job…I keep hearing that people are ‘hating’ on it. I’m not sure how anyone could hate on love but that’s okay. You may have your memes. Honestly, I’m at work too busy to check Twitter anyway #Booked.” These are the kind of role models that we need for our girls, and it’s disgusting that we consider only having one aesthetic to represent the plethora of beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis.
Because if we want our girls to feel comfortable in their own skin when they see nobody who looks like them on the silver screen, how can we expect them to when we debase anybody who looks a little different on the billboards? And if somebody is healthy, why should something as silly as a number on a scale or on your jean tag matter?
What characters or roles have inspired you? How can we continue to break these stereotypes? Tell us below!
Dana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.
Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.